Advocacy in action at Maryland Horse Industry Day

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Jan. 30, 2019

Multiple Maryland lawmakers and members of the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan vocalized their support for the horse racing and breeding industry—as well as the value of the horse in general to the state’s economy and fabric of life—during Maryland Horse Industry Day Jan. 29 in Annapolis.

The event, organized by Grow & Fortify, offers those involved in the horse industry an opportunity to meet with legislators in their districts and also to educate lawmakers on the industry. The overall economic impact of the horse industry in Maryland is said to be $2.1 billion; the racing sector contributes $572 million of the overall number.

Maryland Secretary of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth Holt, who began galloping horses at the racetrack in 1972 and remains a proponent of the industry, discussed the importance of having a united front when it comes to legislative endeavors.

“Horse racing for me has been the greatest blessing of my life,” Holt said. “The system here (in government) is all about teamwork. Gov. Hogan has demonstrated he can work across the aisle. As you get together, remember you are all working together for the benefit of Maryland agriculture. The horse industry has maintained its broad strength across all of Maryland.”

Hogan, a Republican, last fall was re-elected to his second term, only the second Republican governor in state history to have done so. Both the Senate and the House of Delegates are under Democratic leadership.

Holt said the industry is “going to face a number of issues,” not the least of which is the future of Pimlico Race Course. Lawmakers have said they expect the home of the Preakness Stakes to be the subject of hearings during the current legislative session in light of the second phase of a Maryland Stadium Authority report that set the price tag for redevelopment of the facility at roughly $420 million.

Steuart Pittman, a longtime equine advocate elected to the post of Anne Arundel County Executive in November, noted that the Laurel Park property, including the barn area, largely lies in his county.

“I see Laurel as a place where there should be some good development,” Pittman said. “I think it will grow and more people will come. When the Maryland Million rolls around (in October), I can assure you Anne Arundel County will be there in force.”

The reach of the horse industry was touched upon by Sen. Arthur Ellis of Charles County, which is located in the southern part of the state along the Potomac River.

“You’re presence here means a lot,” Ellis told Horse Industry Day attendees. “There are a lot of horse folks in Charles County, and I’m here to offer any support I can.”

Said Del. Steve Lafferty of Baltimore County, which has abundant farmland and equine establishments north, west and east of the city, told the group its “advocacy is so critical in protecting the horse industry going forward.”

According to documents circulated on Horse Industry Day, more than $73 million in equine infrastructure projects are planned or already in progress. Two big-ticket items are racing-related: the continued renovation and rebuild of Laurel’s clubhouse and grandstand, and at Fair Hill reconfiguration of its turf course to accommodate more flat racing and construction of a new grandstand.

(Maryland Horse Industry photo by Tom LaMarra)